Durham Region's Furniture refinishing, repair, & restoration experts
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1. How can I tell if a piece needs restoration or refinishing?
2. What are the common types of damage to a finish requiring refinishing to repair it?
3. Why is my furniture sticky, and how do I keep it clean?
4. How do I protect my furniture from everyday damage?
5. What are the differences between lacquer and varnish?
6. What are the differences between Penetrating Stains and Non-Grain Rasing Stains?
7. What are the different types of stripping techniques?
8. What type of clear coat is on my furniture?
9. What kind of caning is on my chair?
10. What is a rush seat?
11. What is a splint seat?
12. Can you refinish only the damaged area?
13. Where do I start?
14. Do I have to bring you my furniture?
1. How can I tell if a piece needs restoration or refinishing?.
Most often, pieces need refinishing due to the initial clear coat that was applied.  Most furniture has a lacquer
finish, even if it is old.  Lacquer has been used commercially since the 1920’s.  When a lacquer finish dries
out, it cannot be reactivated into a liquid state (to smooth out the tiny cracks and texture that naturally
happens) because the majority of the finish would evaporate leaving an insufficient amount of clear coat to
seal the wood.  Older furniture sealed with varnish, however, can be reactivated into a liquid state and
smoothed out.  Usually the pieces that qualify for a restoration are antiques with no damage to the finish
other than being dried out.
2. What are the common types of damage to a finish requiring refinishing to repair it?.
3. Why is my furniture sticky, and how do I keep it clean?
Finished wood is everywhere in your home and it can all be cleaned the same way.  We suggest
vegetable-based soaps (such as Murphy's Oil Soap) designed to clean wood gently and thoroughly without
leaving an oily residue.  These types of cleaners will remove dust, hand oil, cooking oils, nicotine and sticky
messes.  Most other oil-based cleaners offer an initial shiny glimmer but eventually evaporate leaving a
residue.  This residue will build up with prolonged use of these products until eventually your wood feels
sticky...especially on humid days.  Once this happen the residue cannot be washed off with soap because it
has bonded with the wood finish.  If you do attempt to scrub it off with soap you will remove the clear coat.  A
build up of hand oil will do the same to a finish so it is important to wipe down high traffic areas of furniture
such as the tops and arms of chairs, table tops, staircase hand rails and kitchen cupboards.
4. How do I protect my furniture from everyday damage?
Control the humidity in your home as major fluctuations can cause joints to become loose and adhesives to
dry out.  In some cases it can cause the wood to warp.

Dry air and direct sunlight will dry out the finish over a period of years severely shortening the life of the
finish.  A dry finish will break into many small cracks following the wood grain.  This is first stage damage.  
Second stage damage occurs when humidity gets absorbed into the wood through these cracks.   
Subsequent evaporation will enlarge cracks.  Third stage damage occurs when water from dusting, drinks or
watering plants absorbs into the wood, eventually evaporating, causing the finish to flake.  The fourth stage
sees bare wood exposed to the open air which will lead to discolouration and possible stains.

Furniture is made to be used and enjoyed and accidents happen, especially when there are small children at
home. Take these steps to keep damage from everyday life to a minimum:

Unless your furniture has a new finish to protect it, use coasters to prevent spills, stains and damage from
hot dishes. Blot all spills immediately. Keep solvents, alcohol, nail polish and polish removers away from your
furniture surfaces.

When dusting, always lift lamps and other objects - don't slide then across the furniture's surface.
Always lift furniture to move it - don't drag it.  Open and close doors, drawers and lids gently.
5. What are the differences between lacquer and varnish?

One of the most protective finishes available, varnishes have very good resistance against abrasion, wear,
heat, solvents and water vapor.

Many furniture factories and large volume refinishers use lacquers because of their fast-drying characteristics
- the tradeoff we believe to be time v. quality.  Oil based varnish does not dry very quickly, therefore it will
take longer to complete a finishing project using varnish as opposed to lacquer, but the upside is a more
durable, quality finish.  Achieving a perfect varnish finish is a combination of skill and experiences as well as
access to the right tools for the job.

Oil based varnish is manufactured by cooking certain oils that can cure with resins. Once this blend of cooked
oil and resin is complete, solvents are added to make it thin enough to apply and metallic dryers are added to
help speed up the curing time.

Initially, linseed and tung oil were used by manufactures for the curing oils and natural resins like pine and
gum resins were used along with solvents like gum turpentine and mineral spirits (to thin it out) and lead
used for the drier. These ingredients were not only used to make varnish, but also paint.  Modern varnishes
usually use synthetic resins which are superior in strength and longevity and curing oils that are less
expensive to use in the manufacturing process along with a blend of solvents and metallic dryers like cobalt
and zinc that do not cause health problems such as lead does.

This finishing material is made of nitrocellulose combined with other resins dissolved in lacquer thinner
solvent.  The lacquer film forms and cures as the solvent evaporates.  Lacquer thinner is a volatile, “hot”,
solvent containing a combination of hydrocarbon and chemical solvents - including naphtha, xylene, toluene,
acetone, various ketones, and others.  A significant disadvantage of lacquer thinner solvent based finishing is
the hazardous nature of the evaporating solvent itself.  Because of the toxicity of lacquer, its solvent, and its
fumes, many finishers have stopped using it.

NC lacquer was originally developed as both a substitute for shellac and as a way to exploit the large post-
war reserves of coal tar by-products in the form of the nitrated cellulose or “gun cotton” and toluol, a
distillate of coal tar. It has served well but its principal drawback is that it yellows badly with age, and may
even exhibit some degree of cracking or crazing. It is an attractive coating and one which rubs-out well, but it
is weak in the area of abrasion and chemical resistance.  It is not the best choice for items coming into direct
contact with sunlight.
6. What are the differences between Penetrating Stains and Non-Grain Rasing Stains?
Penetrating stains soak into the wood and the excess is wiped off.  The pigment is mixed with chemical that
allows the colour to soak in.  The chemical evaporates and the colour is left bonded to the wood.  Getting a
deep rich colour depends on what chemicals are mixed with the pigment.  A non-grain raising stain can be
shading lacquer that is sprayed on, a wiping or gel stain that applied by hand or pigment mixed in with clear
coat.  These stains sit on the surface of the wood and can mask or hide the grain if applied thickly.  Shading
lacquer and pigment mixed with clear coat can flake off if there is damage to the clear coat.
7. What are the different types of stripping techniques?
There are three ways to strip furniture:
Chemical hand stripping - Chemical hand stripping is the least stressful on wood and joints.  A chemical is
brushed on, soaks into the finish, and softens it so it can be removed carefully with scrapers and steel wool.
Dip stripping - Dip stripping involves submerging your pieces into a harsh chemical that softens the finish
and the glue.  It is then transferred to a water bath to rinse off the finish.  This process tends to dry out the
wood making it rough and grey.  The glue is left brittle and no longer bonds well.
Power sanding - Power sanding is usually impractical because it only removes the finish from flat areas and
leaves swirl patterns in the wood.
8. What type of clear coat is on my furniture?
The best way to determine a finish is through its damage.  If a clear coat is in good condition it can be
difficult for you to determine.  Lacquer is the most common type of finish used commercially because it dries
very quickly and is therefore favoured in large scale production.

Here are some common symptoms associated with different finishes...


Traditional Varnish


  • Shiny with an orange tint

Danish, Teak or Antique Oil
  • No shine and looks unsealed
  • Feels a bit rough
9. What kind of caning is on my chair?
There are two types of caning:  1) lace caning, and 2) sheet caning.  To tell if you have a lace caned piece, flip
it upside down to see how it is woven using a series of holes.  Sheet caned pieces have a piece of reed
forced into a trough around the opening.

Here are some samples of sheet cane varieties.
10. What is a rush seat?
This is a style of seat that has paper rope woven into a pattern.  The most common pattern is four triangles
meeting at the centre.  This a durable product that can be left unsealed.  We choose to always seal our work
for added protection from stains.  Only chairs built for rushed seats can be rushed.
11. What is a splint seat?
Thin wood is woven to create a sturdy seat with a specific pattern.  We weave with ash splint that can be
stained and sealed.  Only chairs built for splint seats can be splinted.  People commonly use this chair style
for rush seats but the rush quickly sags due to unevenness between the front and side rungs.
12. Can you refinish only the damaged area?
We cannot guarantee an exact colour match because there are many factors making each colour unique.  
However, we
can do a blend so the new area does not seem obvious.  Matching the exact shine is also not
13. Where do I start?
By calling Fine Finishes furniture refinishing. We can be reached at 905-786-2477 Mon through Fri from
8:00AM until 5:00PM, and on Sat by appointment only. Our trained staff will help you understand the options
available for all of your finishing, refinishing, and restoration needs.
14. Do I have to bring you my furniture?
Fine Finishes furniture refinishing offers pickup and delivery services. We will ensure that your treasured
items are properly packed and expertly moved to prevent damage. Call us for a quote.  Alternatively, you can
drop off and/or pick up your item(s) at our shop.
Pick up and delivery services are available.
Fine Finishes by T. Osmond - Furniture Refinishing, Repair, & Restoration Experts
Proudly serving Durham Region (Oshawa, Whitby, Courtice), Clarington (Bowmanville, Newcastle, Orono) & Port Hope / Cobourg

82 Irwin Drive, Orono, ON  (905) 786-2477
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